Is the SAT Still Worth Taking?

Every year, high school students across the country take the infamous college preparatory test: the SAT. According to the College Board, that number reached 1.7 million last year. The test-taking and preparation process is often arduous, and many students spend months if not years improving their fluency in the skills tested. Throughout American history, taking the SAT has acted as somewhat of a rite of passage for high schoolers, spanning through generations. Since its introduction in 1926, SAT testing has been normalized as a necessary precursor to higher education.

The SAT has been through numerous redesigns in the past century. Originally, the test consisted of nine subtests, but this has been restructured to contain four distinct categories: reading, writing and math, both with and without the use of a calculator. Each section is worth up to 800 points, and a student’s cumulative score is the sum of both scores — ranging from 400-1600.

Now, the SAT is no longer as useful as it was in the past. Over 80 percent of the United States’ four-year colleges do not require scores for admission, according to Forbes. Admissions experts have cited that the SAT has negative historical connotations, having been used to exclude minorities from higher education institutions if they could not pass a high score benchmark. In a time when social reconstruction is a common goal for Americans, continuing to support a discriminative test just doesn’t make sense.

Another barrier to equal test opportunities is presented by the SAT’s steep cost. Although students may choose to take the SAT as many times as they would like, every test costs $55, not including possible steep late registration fees. To prepare before and between tests, experts recommend practicing with specialized prep materials and tutors, which are often costly. 

For students stemming from lower-income backgrounds, expensive preparation isn’t always within their reach. Studies have shown that students who come from higher-income families perform better on the test, with those from families earning over $100,000 over twice as likely to have scores between 1400 and 1600 than those from families earning $50,000 or less. That provides a clear discrepancy between students who take the test. Rather than showcasing academic potential, the SAT acts as a review of how much students were able to spend preparing.

So, what benefit does the SAT even bring to an application? Students submitting high test scores may be granted more leniency in other areas of their application — such as GPA and grades — but for those unable to achieve impressive scores, the SAT may do more harm than good. Low SAT scores can cause schools to lose interest in students who excel in all other application aspects.

Some elite universities across the country — such as MIT — still require applicants to submit test scores in order to be admitted. For higher-achieving students, ditching the test may not be a feasible possibility. However, those schools should work to eliminate the SAT and favor a more holistic approach by taking into greater consideration essays and a student’s personality.
As times change, so do college standards. The College Board suggests that students applying to college should think twice before wasting their time taking the SAT, and instead spend more time fostering individuality. Colleges don’t want students based on a score number, they want to see that the students they are admitting are unique, dedicated individuals with a story to tell.


  • Lina McDonald

    Lina McDonald was born with a sword in her hand and a weight on her foot. Cue a sixteen-year training montage, complete with exploding volcanoes, murderous sharks and a shirtless Brad Pitt. You want to add an oxford comma? Don’t even run–because you’re not getting away in time. Lina can outrun a bear. Make sure to breathe evenly: even asthma can give you away.

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